By Bryan Scott
At their February 28th meeting, the Oakley City Council discussed the community’s inadequate funding of fire and emergency medical services and decided to advance a reallocation program that has a goal of transferring $7.8 million of area property tax funds to the fire district.
“I believe we need to do something now,” said Vice Mayor Randy Pope towards the end of the spirited discussion.
The council agreed to have City Manager Bryan Montgomery draft a letter endorsing the need for improved fire and emergency medical services and supporting reallocating area property tax funds as a solution.
The group also discussed setting aside a 1% share of the city’s growth in property tax funding, approximately $45,000, to be transferred to East Contra Costa Fire Protection District (ECCFPD). ECCFPD is the local fire department that is struggling to provide adequate services with a funding level set 35 years ago when services were provided by volunteers.
Taking action was argued against by City Manager Montgomery. He said that even though the reallocation program sounds simple, it is not workable because so many government entities need to participate, and that the area school district superintendents have gone on record opposing their participation in the program. He also said Oakley residents need to chime in on the issue, and that action needs to come from elsewhere, at the state or county level.
“You won’t be popular with our partners (if you do this); the schools are not going to like this,” he told the Council towards the end of the discussion, appealing to the human instinct to be loved.
Also discussed by the Council was a meeting Councilmember Kevin Romick attended that was also attended by Contra Costa County Supervisors Diane Burgis (Dist. 3) and Karen Mitchoff (Dist. 4). The meeting’s purpose was to discuss last-minute strategies to keep the fourth ECCFPD fire station open beyond this June, when its temporary funding runs out.
Current ECCFPD funding provides for three fire stations to cover a service area of 250 square miles where over 110,000 people live.
Councilmember Romick said that the agency most involved in providing fire and emergency medical services, ECCFPD, did not attend the meeting. Consequently, the same group will come together again on March 21st to review the fire district’s plans and budget.
Scott is Co-Chair of East County Voters for Equal Protection, a non-partisan grass roots citizens action committee formed to address the unequal funding of fire and emergency medical services existing in 249 square miles of Eastern Contra Costa County. About 110,000 residents, as well as those who work and play in Eastern Contra Costa, have services funded at a level one-fourth to one-third of those levels in other parts of Contra Costa County. For more information contact committee Co-Chairs Hal Bray at firstname.lastname@example.org or Bryan Scott email@example.com. Connect with them and learn more on their Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/EastCountyVoters/